Down along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is in one of America's most scenic natural areas between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Hit hard by the depression, the local economy was slow to recover, but as a result the city's impressive Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architectural diversity survived a period of "urban renewal" that destroyed many other American neighborhoods.
This retro-urban environment makes a fine backdrop for the edgy bohemian energy of art galleries, boutique shops, farm-to-table restaurants, and a lively music scene. Besides the local campus of the University of North Carolina there are eight other colleges here. Rolling Stone has dubbed this the "New Freak Capital of the U.S." and CBS News' Eye On America, called it "a New Age Mecca."
Among major local events are Shindig on the Green with traditional music, dance and story-telling in July and August; and the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival each August. The Drum Circle is an unorganized get-together of local residents on warm Friday evenings in Pritchard Park, open to anyone; and street performing buskers play and sing all around town.
Getting here, getting around
Asheville Regional Airport is in nearby Fletcher, NC. Five major airlines and two budget carriers can get you to and from a dozen major US cities - with connections to most anywhere. Ashville Transit route 6 bus will get you to downtown Ashville for $1, and there are taxis too.
Ashville Transit's 24 routes serve the city from 6am-11:30pm, Monday through Saturday with buses every 30 minutes or so on major streets. The Transit Center, 49 Coxe Avenue, is at the center of this network.
A car is nice for exploring the surrounding countryside. For getting around the city by bike, rentals are available at BioWheels, 81 Coxe Ave, and buses are equipped with bike racks.
Media & resources
There's no specifically gay paper in town, but for arts-and-culture listings, restaurant reviews, and a general look at what's happening in the area, see Mountain Xpress. The city's official tourism site is Explore Asheville.
Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe (55 Haywood St) independent bookstore is a good resource on arrival; with seven languages spoken, a wealth of literature, and a full schedule of authors' readings.
For leathermen's events see the website of WNC Leathermen.
Explore Asheville is the city's official tourism website.
As is true elsewhere in North Carolina, bars and nightclubs in Asheville usually require membership. Friendly locals are often willing to sponsor visitors to enter as a guest, and at some places you can sign up for membership at the door.
Club Hairspray (38 N French Broad Ave), downstairs dance spot, decor inspired by the John Waters movie, DJs, live music, and variety shows, drag kings and queens.
Club Metropolis (behind 38 N French Broad Ave), behind Club Hairspray, 400 capacity dance club, laser light show, stage, large dance floor, local bands, circus troups, and burlesque shows.
Club Remix ((38 N French Broad Ave), below Hairspray, House, Supa Bass, Techno, Electronic and Top 40′s dance nights. Monthly events include comedians, and live bands.
O'Henry's & LaRue's (237 Haywood St) two gay party bars, mixed crowd, drag shows, pool games, Thursday 18+ dancing; also weekend leather bar (see Underground).
Scandal's (11 Grove St), calls itself "The hippest, most fabulous, exciting, almighty dance club in the history of the world." Open Thursday to Saturday from 10pm, 18-plus mixed crowd, drag shows.
Smokey (18 Broadway St), small, no-attitude neighborhood tavern, friendly people of all kinds.
Thirsty Monk (92 Patton St), bears' favorite bar, big selection of American micro-brews, Belgian beers, 62 rotating taplines featured 850 beers in 2011.
Tressa's Downtown Jazz & Blues (28 Broadway St), soft-lit, Old New Orleans elegance, live music, all kinds diverse mix, martinis, dancing, chill-out fireplace lounge, light food, free WiFi.
The Underground (237 Haywood St -basement, backdoor), weekend industrial-style bar, home to Western North Carolina Leathermen parties each first Saturday. Also drag shows, dance nights, special events, jazz and blues music.
For some local restaurants and hotels, plus locations and web links for the above bars, see our maps & listings tab.
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